Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wrestling Right

What I want to write about has already been discussed, blogged, and debated all over. That's because the story is a week old. But I am just now getting to blogging about it. But the story is one of such significance that I still want to take the time to jot down a few thoughts about it.

Wrestling is big here in central Iowa the third week of every February. That's because the state wrestling tournaments are held in Des Moines. It's a huge money-maker for the metro. People come from all corners of the state - even people who don't have children competing. They come for the atmosphere.

Personally, I don't see the appeal. Wrestling, in my opinion, is kind of a gross sport - men grabbing eachother between their legs and pinning their heads to the mat. I'd much rather watch basketball or baseball, or even football, which I don't even understand. But, a lot of people like it. I know Will's former youth pastor was really into wrestling in high school and college. He kept urging Will to go out for it, but, thankfully, Will was never interested.

But had he been interested, I hope he would have had as much character as a certain young man from the Linn-Mar school district named Joel Northrup. Joel is a homeschooled student who participates in public school sports. Nothing wrong with that. Will does that and David hopes to, too, in the coming years.

Joel is a Christian young man and he was put in a very difficult position. He worked very, very hard to earn his spot in the tournament. So did a certain young woman. Yes, that's right. This year there were, in fact, two teenage girls competing against boys in the state wrestling tournament. Some herald this as a "great step" for women. I don't think so. So, anyway, Joel was told he had to wrestle with one of these girls. He could forfeit, but that would mean he would then have a loss and would be giving up his chance to win at the tournament. Or, he could wrestle the girl and hopefully, continue on.

On Wednesday of last week Joel indicated that he was thinking of forfeiting because he had a problem with wrestling a girl. Oh, this set off a firestorm. Many people praised his hesitation and that was my first inclination, too. But many ridiculed him. They claimed that he was "too religious" and he wasn't respecting how far women have come in the sports arena. On Thursday Joel did choose to forfeit.

I applaud him.

Let's think about this: Am I against women athletes? No. Am I one? Another no, but that's a post for another day. I think it is extremely beneficial for women of all ages to be physically fit and active. Competitive sports are wonderful for this. Do I hate women wrestlers? Um, again no. I don't understand them, but again, that's just me. But this is what I know: young women and young men have absolutely no business wrestling eachother. As parents, we teach our sons to respect women and that it's "hands off" until marriage. Why does that change if there is a wrestling mat on the floor? Wrestling is not a gentle sport. It's full-contact and quite aggressive. It is wrong for a man to touch a woman in a way that is aggressive, even if it's in the name of sports.

By the way, I am against girls playing on football teams, too, for the same reason. If a girl ever joins Will's team at Pville, I'm not sure what we'll do. I won't have him tackling her, that's for sure.

Other sports? That's ok. If men and women want to play baseball together, play checkers, basketball, I don't have a problem with that. Yes, they might collide at some point, but that's not the point of the game, unlike wrestling and football.

Frankly, I think it's a foolish idea for girls to insist on joining men's teams. I'd like to blame this on the ERA movement of the early seventies, but Iowa has, in fact, allowed girls to wrestle with boys since 1926. Kind of unbelievable! And I suppose if a girl really has her heart set on wrestling, why not have all girl teams? And this brings up another point - why can girls join the boy teams, but boys cannot join the girls' teams (think girls' volleyball, basketball)?

As I heard debate on this, one thing I quickly realized, is that young men are really, truly at a disadvantage when it comes to wrestling girls. If they win, nobody celebrates it because the unwritten expectation is that a boy should beat the girl! But if he loses, oh boy - it's social death for that young man! That is really unfair.

Having equal opportunities does not mean that decency and propriety are cast aside. Thankfully, Joel Northrup recognized this and, in doing so, made a huge, personal sacrifice. By doing so, he raised the level of character and decency in Iowa high school athletics.

Competitions (even state wrestling tournaments) come and go. But character lasts forever.


  1. Well said, Sarah. We've been following his story, too. Good for him! It's not that I object to women in sports--it's that I admire Joel's convictions. God bless his parents for raising a respectful young man--chivalry isn't as prevalent as it used to be.

  2. As for young men wrestling with young women, I agree, it should not be done. It fits into my category of "just because it's legal, doesn't mean it's right" category.